The first time I attempted to make quinoa was a disaster. I followed the directions on the bag, which sounds like the correct thing to do, right? Well, nowhere in the directions did it say to rinse the quinoa before cooking it. When I sat down to enjoy it, I noticed that it tasted nothing like the version I had at a local restaurant—delicious quinoa delicately tucked into lettuce leaves and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It tasted soapy and weird. And that’s no way to enjoy a dish of quinoa.
I tried again. And this time, I was successful. Rinse your quinoa before cooking it, people! It makes a huge difference. I also found that straining it after cooking, then letting it sit covered in the hot pan for another 10-15 minutes made the quinoa perkier and not mushy—yet two more steps that make a huge difference.
Have you made it this far into the post, but you’re wondering what the heck quinoa is? Glad you stuck with me! Here are a few facts about quinoa:
- It’s a species of goosefoot, and it’s a grain grown for its edible seeds.
- It’s pronounced KEEN-WA.
- It’s on Applebee’s Pub Diet menu, so you can eat healthier while you’re getting wasted!
- It tastes similar to brown rice, and it’s a little nutty (like me!).
If you’ve never tried it, it’s ridiculously easy to make, and there are so many variations that make it a very versatile side or main dish. Start with this one, then experiment.
1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
- Bring three cups of water to a boil in a saucepan, and season with salt.
- Rinse quinoa thoroughly under cold water in a fine-mesh strainer in the sink. Rinsing is important—the quinoa will have a soapy taste otherwise.
- Add quinoa to boiling water, then reduce to a simmer.
- Cover and cook until the water is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes. It’s cooked when the tiny white spiral germ becomes visible around the grains.
- Transfer cooked quinoa back to the fine-mesh strainer and make sure all excess water is drained.
- Return quinoa to warm pot, cover, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. The extra draining and sitting time will ensure that the quinoa isn’t mushy and wet.
Spinach, Artichoke & Tomato Sauce Recipe
Makes enough for 1 1/2 cups of quinoa*
8 ounces (about 1/2 bag) frozen chopped spinach
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14-ounce) can small artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped**
15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
*Tip: Don’t like quinoa? You can still enjoy this delicious sauce. Combine it with pasta, rice or couscous!
**Tip: If you have a large jar of marinated artichokes sitting in the fridge, just take about 8 small ones out of the jar, drain, then chop.
- Place the frozen spinach in a bowl and microwave until thawed, about 1-2 minutes.
- Transfer spinach to a fine-mesh strainer in the sink, and squeeze it until all water is drained.
- Heat olive oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add spinach, artichokes and tomatoes. Cook until heated through, about 10 minutes, then lower heat to simmer until quinoa is ready. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn off the heat and stir in cooked quinoa. Serve warm.